Advice, Craft, Dialogue, Editing, Fiction, Narrative, Novel, Revision, Scene, Tips, Writing

She said what?!

In this round of novel editing, I discovered a problem caused by rearranging scenes. I was reading merrily along when I said to myself, “Wow, is Renee a bitch or what?” Granted Renee’s a little rough around the edges, and says pretty much what she thinks, but still. I didn’t believe she and Jalal knew each other well enough, at that point, for her to speak to him that way.

So, to check out my theory, I took all the bits of conversation they’d had up to this scene and pasted them into another file. I cut out all narrative and dialogue tags, and color-coded to make it easier to see only the words they had spoken to each other. Like this example (which is not the bitchy part):

“I love your accent.”
“I don’t have an accent.”
“No? Say my name.”
“Well … maybe a little.”
“So … you were born in Iran.”
“Are you … Muslim?
“Will you ever move back home?”
“This is my home; I am an American citizen. I have lived here a long time.”

The conversation that got my attention used to appear a later in the book where Renee’s little dig at Jalal made more sense. But I had shifted around previous scenes which moved this scene up. These two had actually said less than 800 words to each other, so yes, it was inappropriate for Renee to feel such familiarity with Jalal that she would take such a jab at him. The fix will be to insert a new scene, in which they get to know each other a little better, before this one. (Yay, higher word count!)

Btw, I also found out that dialogue can look pretty dull without the narrative. 🙂

18 thoughts on “She said what?!”

  1. That dialogue is interesting. I imagine Jalal sitting on a deck with a drink in hand and staring out at the beach, while a young woman leans over her chair to pester him with questions.

    Good luck on the new scene.


    1. Thanks, Ann, I’m listening, but I can’t hear them talking yet.

      🙂 Actually, that bit of conversation has moved around. It originally took place during a walk on the beach … I think. You know, a lot of my scenes start like this, with only the dialogue, and then I fill in the rest. Does everyone do that?


          1. Not me. Story first, dialogue follows. My OU tutor said I need to get out of my narrator head and use dialogue more so that’s probably why. Reporting is what I do, dialogue isn’t so I need to get to grips with that.


          2. It used to be hard for me to fill in the narrative, but I think I’ve hit a balance now … though occasionally a critique partner will point out that they could use a little more. I’m working on it. 🙂


  2. I must be a dunce or an ass, because I didn’t see the jab. 😉

    Hope you’re doing well, Linda. I’m sorry I’ve been so scarce, but I guess you know why by now. 🙂


    1. In this instance, at least, you are neither a dunce nor an ass. 🙂 That particular excerpt was only to show my splendid color coding. It wasn’t the section with the jab.

      And yes, poor Darc, I know about your limited internet access. You probably won’t even get to read this. 😦


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